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USP Staff Slam Inquiry As Risking 'Witch Hunt'

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USP Staff Slam Inquiry As Risking 'Witch Hunt'

SUVA: The University of the South Pacific's academic staff union has refused to cooperate with a special internal inquiry to probe staff conduct in the wake of the Fiji political crisis, claiming that it runs a grave risk of setting off a "general witch hunt".

In a letter to Vice-Chancellor Esekia Solofa this week, USPSA president Dr Biman Prasad said it was "highly irregular" for the university to investigate "shot in the dark" allegations of misconduct against staff members.

It is understood that the inquiry was set up in response to a slate of allegations made by USP Students Association Veresi Bainivualiku which have been described by staff as "wild and unsubstantiated".

The student president himself has been at the centre of controversy on several occasions, including being fined $150 by university authorities in August for "manhandling" another student.

In Dr Prasad's letter, he said the terms of reference for the inquiry went against the established rules of the university in dealing with alleged misconduct by staff and students.

"Any allegation of misconduct by students or staff can be dealt with under the current procedures of staff conduct and student conduct," he said.

He also said the inquiry was prompted by allegations made by "a small number of students", and in particular some officials of the students association.

"The Association of University Staff feels that by having this inquiry you have succumbed to the demands of a few students and the unsupported, unsubstantiated and wild allegations they have made against staff members," Dr Prasad told the vice-chancellor.

"It is especially unwise of you to accept such allegations, particularly when they have been made by officers of a student association that has been largely discredited in the eyes of the majority of the students and staff."

University management needed to realise that Bainivualiku was "flying a kite" over the issue.

Dr Prasad called on the university to follow established procedures relating to staff misconduct allegations.

"Such an inquiry now appears as little more than a forum for any disgruntled person to make the wildest accusations, and runs the grave risk of setting in motion a general witch hunt," he said.

University staff and students have been invited by the administration filed written submissions for the inquiry.

The inquiry report is due to be completed by May 2001.

+++niuswire


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